In Australia: Fridays, 8.30pm, ABC1
It hasn’t escaped the notice of more or less any TV executive worldwide that TV audiences are getting older. Those damn kids are glued to this new fangled Internet, leaving TV behind to those who’ve been watching since they were kids and TV was this new fangled thing that was robbing cinema of its audiences.
As a result, TV for what I’ll charitably call the older generations is getting special consideration, particularly in the crime genre, which the old folks just love. Here in the UK, of course, we have BBC1’s New Tricks, starring a bevy of famous older actors from shows that were popular in the 70s and 80s. It’s now on its 11th series, and still bringing in between 7m and 10m viewers.
Australia’s ABC1 (which also airs New Tricks) is waking up to this potential as well, and for its latest effort, Old School, it’s deploying two of the world’s most famous older Antipodean actors: Sam Neill and Bryan Brown. Neill is a retired cop, Brown a crim who’s just got out of jail. They team up to find the man who shot Neill and ruined his career during Brown’s last job – and to find the loot that went missing afterwards.
Not entirely confident that cutting out an entire demographic from the potential audience is a good idea, ABC1 is ensuring that some young pretty people also feature in the cast list: Brown’s law student granddaughter (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence from Spartacus) whom Brown puts into the care of Mark Coles Smith (The Gods of Wheat Street) when things get a bit rough.
But this is still a double act between Neill and Brown, both of whom are playing this somewhat leisurely, let’s say. As with New Tricks, it’s a relatively slowly paced, amiable comedy-drama where nothing that wouldn’t have happened in an episode of Hawaii Five-O takes place. There aren’t any especially great lines and most of the action revolves around either Neill or Brown feeling old or discovering something that’s changed since he was a lad, such as this new fangled Internet.
Yet despite this and the almost The Persuaders!-esque title sequence, OId School is still a modern show, a series with definite story arcs and character development rather than an entirely episodic piece. There are surprises and mysteries that aren’t solved by the end of the first episode. The inevitable odd couple private detective format, with Neill using his police skills, Brown his criminal skills, is partly present but doesn’t pan out quite as you’d expect, with Neill dealing with shades of grey surprisingly well, Brown able to police sometimes as well as Neill.
While it’s nothing earth-shattering, Old School is enjoyable, has a good couple of leads, a good supporting cast and a strong enough plot that it’ll be worth sticking with for now – it’ll probably remind you a bit of The Rockford Files or something.